Five Takeaways From Lakers/Blazers

Darius Soriano —  October 11, 2012

The Lakers played and lost their second preseason game on Wednesday night. The Blazers, like the Warriors, pulled away in the second half and ended up winning the contest 93-75. While I’m still on the “losses in the preseason don’t matter” train, it doesn’t mean what’s occurring in the game lacks meaning. So, with that, here are five takeaways from the game…

  1. Robert Sacre continues to show he belongs on the team. It’s not his stat line — an okay 8 point, 3 board, 1 block/steal/assist night — that has me convinced. It’s more the fact that he continues to show he understands how to play the game at this level. He’s in the right position more often than not. He knows how to use his size to his advantage. He doesn’t make too many mistakes and continues to play to his strengths. When all of those qualities come in a 7’0″, 260 pound frame I’m more than willing to give him a roster spot as the Lakers’ 5th big. Forget Jordan Hill’s injury or the fact that Dwight Howard isn’t yet cleared to play in games. Strictly from a roster construction standpoint, the Lakers need another big man on the roster and preferably someone that can play center. Sacre is that player, I’m convinced.
  2. Ron-Ron is in fantastic shape and that level of fitness is translating to an effectiveness on the floor that is as plain to see as the sun in the sky. He’s moving around the floor as well as at any point during his Lakers’ tenure and is making things happen when he gets to his spots. His defense looks sharp, he’s flashing fantastic variety on offense — running the lane, posting up, hitting jumpers, creating off the dribble — that the Lakers sorely need, and his work on the backboards has been strong. To say I’m happy with where he’s at right now would be a gross understatement. Fact is, if Ron can keep up this level of play during the season (and I don’t just mean stats-wise, I mean from a sheer eye-ball test way) the Lakers become that much more difficult to deal with.
  3. I’m starting to hedge on what Antawn Jamison’s best position with the team will be. After his acquisition I was fully of the mind that Jamison should be a PF that spaced the floor on offense and piggy-backed on the effectiveness of his big man partner on defense. However, that role came with concerns about how he’d manage being on the back line of the defense and against the Blazers I saw validation in those concerns. Jamison was good on the glass (6 defensive rebounds in 28 minutes) but his rotations on the back end were hesitant and he offered no paint protection when he was covering for the center who rotated out of the lane. On offense, he mostly shot long jumpers that missed but looked much better when on the move going towards the basket. We’ll see how things sort out when Howard is in the lineup and how the Lakers’ offense evolves as they get more comfortable within the Princeton O and add to what they already have installed. But as of now, the PF is mostly acting as a floor spacer/ball reverser at the top of the key and Jamison is still best served moving around more on offense by cutting and slashing. I’m by no means grading him at this early stage, but this is something I’ll be watching closely as the preseason advances.
  4. Devin Ebanks has improved his game, especially on offense. He’s less hesitant taking his jumper and is seeking out opportunities to take his J by moving well off the ball and drifting into open spaces. The release on his jumper looks smooth and reflects a level of confidence that simply wasn’t there in the playoffs when he effectively replaced Matt Barnes in the rotation. On defense he’s still got great length and shows an ever improving understanding of where to be, when to be there, and how to use his skill set to guard within the team scheme. I don’t know what his ceiling is (likely above average role player) but he’s showing that he can back up either wing position so far this preseason. Whether this continues into the season remains to be seen, but he is earning a spot in the rotation with this play.
  5. It’s hard to fully judge what this team is without Dwight Howard. For example, the Lakers struggled with their transition defense and in guarding the pick and roll last night. Dame Lillard pushed the ball in the open court, attacked his man (this was evident against Nash) in isolation, and then took open mid-range jumpers against the retreating D. Does Dwight Howard help solve this issue? Does his ability to change ends help build a wall that limits a guard’s ability to attack? Would players like Nash, Blake, Meeks, etc pressure ball handlers more knowing that they have Howard protecting the rim behind them? We don’t yet know this.

In the pick and roll, Howard is one of the best hedge and recover bigs in the league and can disrupt this action as well (or better) than any other Laker. The Blazers did a very good job of turning the corner and/or stringing out their dribble to get to spots on the floor that strained the Lakers’ help schemes. Wouldn’t Howard make a difference there? Even if Howard isn’t the big man helping on the ball, he’s still the best weak-side shot blocker in the league and can expertly help the helper by taking away the dive man while also protecting against a guard who penetrates. So, again, not having Howard on the back line is clearly something that’s affecting the Lakers’ scheme.

Darius Soriano

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27 responses to Five Takeaways From Lakers/Blazers

  1. Darius – thanks for the recap. I couldn’t catch the game, and was very curious about your take on it. Any thoughts on CDR, Duhon and Goudelock?

  2. Why aren’t people in full blown panic mode right now? The Lakers are currently tied for last place in preseason rankings with NEGATIVE 18 POINT DIFFERENTIAL. If they don’t turn things around quickly they may not even qualify for the regular season! We have to fire Mike Brown and find a way to trade Jodie Meeks for Kevin Durant to start at the SF so we can bring Artest off the bench.

  3. JD,

    Are you crazy? Ron, in the shape he is in, starts over anyone in the league. Durant off the bench would be sweet though. Somebody better be telling Cupcake, “Can’t rest on the laurels, son. Nash and Dwight was yesterday’s acquisition”.

    #COUNTDARINGZZZZZ (ZZZ)<— Mamba's future ringzzzzz

    #KobeEvenGetsRetirementRingzzzzz

  4. Agreed that MWP is going to be huge this year. He is going to be a monster on defense and general hustle, and because he is surrounded by a HOF line up around him, he will score as well. He could be the perfect guy to be the 5th starter on this club. When Dwight and Jordan are both “back”, then we will see a huge improvement both with the starters and the bench group. Jamison is another job for MB as he must make sure he is comfortable and gets good looks. AJ is the type of player that is offense must be clicking or he becomes worthless. We obviously can’t have that. And we won’t : ) The obvious move is to make sure that SN and AJ get minutes together.

    J.D.: Can you see if Mitch can get that Durant deal done? I would call myself, however I have used up all my favors with the FO for this season.

  5. Hmmm, I think you guys are on to something. Instead of Durant though they can focus on Westbrook. Maybe they can offer Meeks & Jamison for Westbrook. Two players are better than 1 right? This will allow Nash to come off the bench and run the 2nd unit. Mitch should get this done asap because it would be real shame if the Lakers don’t qualify for the regular season after getting Nash & Dwight.

  6. Agree MWP is in great shape and will be able to do stuff he hasn’t been able to do for a while. But a little worried after what I’ve seen that he might try to do a little too much to try and prove himself. We might see Ron forcing a drive while Nash is standing around a bit too often.

  7. I just knew this Steve Nash experiment was going to fail!!

  8. Is it just me but this looks like 06′-07′ Kobe? Dayum!!!

    http://www.egotastic.com/2012/10/kobe-bryant-dunks-on-antawn-jamison/

  9. This team would average 150 points under Adelman.

  10. Ex,

    You’re the king of one liners.

    Any_one_house,

    You didn’t miss anything from Game 1, three of starters played extended minutes in 3rd to keep it close but as soon as they sat down, there goes our bench. MB is interested on individual performance rather than team. Will he say another point if the team won. What’s your former blog name? Time for all the ET’s to come home on Lakerholics.net but keep the FBG.

  11. I would have something insightful to say, but I have Verizon.

  12. You guys are crazy, OKC wouldn’t trade Westbrook for Jamison and Meeks! You know they would want to dump Harden’s and Ibaka’s contracts as well. All we need to do then is flip Chris Duhon for Lebron and our team would be set for the first few games.

  13. Avidon: You could be right. So 115 under MB so should reachable – true? : )

    JayZ: Love it. Kobe has 4 years left. And we are going to get to watch it all.

    exhelodrvr: Steve Nash is not an experiment, he is an investment – whcih will pay dividends for the next 3 years.

    All: Enjoy this. We are on top.

  14. Darius: Love the spell check button. However, why no edit feature? Sorry if I missed this answer already.

  15. That’s why I love this site. Thanks for the great analysis Darius.

    Anyone else notice that when Kobe is out Ron steps up and plays really outstanding ball? It really hits home what a multi- dimensional gifted player the dude still is and how committed he is to this team. He’s content in his role and then steps it up and become a floor leader and offensive threat when called upon.

  16. EdwinG:
    Thanks. I haven’t changed my blog name – but you wouldn’t know me from then because I rarely posted :)

  17. If Ron can play the Odom role when most of the starters are out, it’d be terrific.

  18. Just a wonderful thread to read. LOL

    And, great write-up Darius of a game I missed.

  19. How much are we paying Jamison? Whatthe team needs is another big (Sacre) and a serviceable bench who can play 2or3 (EBanks)

  20. The definition of fan is impatient. This doesn’t mean they are always wrong, just impulsive.

    Jamison was a known quantity when we signed him – and the fans seemed glad at the time. Mike Brown knows Jamison. Jamison is not getting younger with time. These are all known facts.

    Now we are ready to dump him over a couple of preseason games. This simply makes no sense what-so-ever. First he is a backup player near the minimum, yet we expect him to play like he did during his prime. Second we expect him to have the same dedication Kobe does, this is not a practical expectation for any player other than Kobe.

  21. The Lakers reportedly making Blake and Duhon available, plus a very small chance that Fisher might return in March:

    http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/50293/fish-back-to-lakers-heres-how

  22. Craig,
    People that watched Jamison play last year in Cle knew before camp he had little to contribute to this team. That’s before even one preseason game. The preseason has just cemented the fact Antawn is finished being a contributor on a quality team. When a player loses their legs the writing is on the wall. He is a good character guy to have at the end of the bench and his contract was very friendly. No harm signing him.

  23. http://espn.go.com/blog/los-angeles/lakers/post/_/id/33425/practice-report-conditioning-dwights-back-and-sacre-dues

    I tried giving Mike Brown a pass but I’m starting to think if Lakers win it’ll be in spite of him. Because this makes absolutely no sense.

    “You gotta understand that a guy like Pau, a guy like Kobe, those guys have played some heavy minutes this summer and they’ve practiced quite a bit,” Brown said. “So it’s gonna take them a little while to get back to form, even though they’re in great shape. Not only that, I’ve been practicing these guys pretty long and pretty hard, so these guys have to continue to try to get minutes to slowly to build up to where they would be again.”

    “If I make it uncomfortable for them now, hopefully, later in the year, that uncomfortable feeling that they’re getting from me right now won’t ever come up again because they’ve been through stuff like that.”

    So Brown is admitting Kobe and Pau have already had a training camp, played in olympic games and he’s practicing them long and hard. In the same breathe he says “it’s gonna take them a while to get back to form even though there in great shape”. What the heck kind of sense does that make?

    He’s admitting to overworking the players but hopes down the line when they’ll need energy to defeat a young Okc team the uncomfortable tired feeling they’re getting now makes them push through later. No they won’t push through later because they’ll be gassed out.

  24. We have the best starting five and the worst bench in the league. There is no sixth man talent, it’s not even close. Unless Meeks or Ebanks really step up, our success will depend largely on health.

  25. One thing Im predicting. There will be a lot of games where the Laker starters are putting on a clinic maybe up 25 with 10 minutes left in the game and be forced to come back in only up 10 with 5 minutes left. Even now I can see that Nash is going to have to play more then 30 minutes a game.

    The drop off between our starters and the bench in talent is unprecedented.

  26. I don’t think Mike Brown realizes how old this roster is. Bynum, Pau and Kobe ALL faded down the stretch last season. And one would say from being overworked. Kobe missed games because of a shin, Pau looked weak and Bynum couldn’t get post position inside of 15 feet.

    So he has a 38 yr old PG who has a history of back problems, 2 older players who’ve just played in the Olympics and a player you’ll NEED coming off back surgery. And he’s running 2 a days and admitting to overworking them before a meaningful game. Someone who interviews Brown has to call him out on this otherwise we’ll see a repeat of last year.

  27. One thing to keep in mind folks on the age/injury/minutes factor is that last season is a bit on the unique side.

    Lockout shorted season with a highly condensed schedule. Games will be spaced out more this upcoming year. Even though it will be a longer season, I expect it to be less grueling on vets like Kobe and Pau.

    And, no matter how you slice it, this:

    Jordan Hill
    Jodie Meeks
    Antawn Jamison

    is an upgrade over this:

    Troy Murphy
    Steve Blake as backup SG
    Josh McRoberts

    And also, we can legitimately expect that Howard will be able to play close to 40 minutes a game if necessary once he gets healthy. He IS still young enough and athletic enough to do that. Not that we’d want him to, but we’ll be okay.